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What you need to know about protein

This week we continue with the second of our three part series on macronutrients. We are focusing on protein this week. While the diet world has alternated between fats being evil and carbs being evil generally there hasn’t been much bad to say about protein. This article will answer some of your questions about protein.

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Why is protein necessary?

Protein is used extensively in our bodies to build and maintain muscles and other tissue. When we are young it is important for maintaining growth and not enough can cause stunted growth. As we age it is important for preventing muscle loss. It can also be used as an energy source but is not the body’s preferred source of energy.

How much protein do I need?

The recommended daily allowance is 0.8 g per kg of body mass. There is some evidence that this is not enough. Be careful on a low calorie diet. You still need as much protein when you are dieting. If you are exercising you will need more protein to help repair and build muscle. Although children need lots of protein to maintain growth, they are usually more efficient using protein. Older adults are less efficient at using protein and need more to prevent muscle loss. A general guideline for women is one palm sized serving of protein at each meal.

Can I eat too much protein?

It seems that you can eat relatively large amounts of protein without consequences. It used to be believed that excess protein was hard on the kidneys or caused calcium to be lost from our bones. Recent studies have shown that neither are the case. Do keep in mind that if you start adding protein rich foods to diet that they should be replacing unhealthy snack foods and not vegetables or healthy fats.

Whrat are the best sources of protein?

Almost all foods have some protein in them.Generally protein that comes from animal sources are considered higher quality than vegetable sources. On the other hand vegetable sources of protein such as beans have a lot going for them. They are higher in fibre and vitamins than meat so to some extent you get more bang for your protein buck with these sources.

When should I eat protein?

Recent studies have shown that the timing of protein is perhaps as important as how much we eat. We need protein when we are most active - during the day. Unfortunately we often eat a high carb breakfast and a much higher protein dinner, in some ways the opposite of what we need. Eating a higher protein breakfast helps to maintain muscle used during daily activity or exercise.

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